Overwatch: Tracer Pose Removed Due To Fan Feedback, More Feedback Ensues [Update]

Posted on 09/16 16:09 in | 0

Update #2: The new Over the Shoulder pose for Tracer is live in the newest game update.

Update #1: Kaplan has reopened the thread about the change with further explanation about Blizzard's decision in the matter.

"As the game director, I have final creative say over what does or does not go into the game," wrote Kaplan. "With this particular decision, it was an easy one to make—not just for me, but for the art team as well. We actually already have an alternate pose that we love and we feel speaks more to the character of Tracer. We weren’t entirely happy with the original pose, it was always one that we wrestled with creatively."

"That the pose had been called into question from an appropriateness standpoint by players in our community did help influence our decision—getting that kind of feedback is part of the reason we’re holding a closed beta test—but it wasn’t the only factor. We made the decision to go with a different pose in part because we shared some of the same concerns, but also because we wanted to create something better."

"We wouldn’t do anything to sacrifice our creative vision for Overwatch, and we’re not going to remove something solely because someone may take issue with it. Our goal isn’t to water down or homogenize the world, or the diverse cast of heroes we’ve built within it. We have poured so much of our heart and souls into this game that it would be a travesty for us to do so," added Kaplan.

"We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision, and that’s okay. That’s what these kinds of public tests are for. This wasn’t pandering or caving, though. This was the right call from our perspective, and we think the game will be just as fun the next time you play it."

Original article: Three days ago, a user on the official Overwatch forum left a lengthy post for Blizzard, urging them to make a change to the game. The user had an issue with the 'Over The Shoulder' pose for Tracer, one of the game's many characters. These poses are chosen by players and shown when a match is won.

"What about this pose has anything to do with the character you're building in Tracer? It's not fun, it's not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast elite killer. It just reduces Tracer to another bland female sex symbol," wrote user Fipps.

"We aren't looking at a Widowmaker pose here, this isn't a character who is in part defined by flaunting her sexuality," they continue. "This pose says to the player base, 'Oh, we've got all these cool diverse characters, but at any moment we are willing to reduce them to sex symbols to help boost our investment game.'"

"Getting art into a triple A game isn't a small task, it has to go through an implementer, a team lead, an art director, and a creative director," Fipps continued. "I believe the team is responsible for upholding the great example Overwatch can set to the rest of the industry for creating strong female characters. What I'm asking is that as you continue to add to the Overwatch cast and investment elements, you double down on your commitment to create strong female characters. You've been doing a good job so far, but shipping with a Tracer pose like this undermines so much of the good you've already done."

As far as feedback goes, that's pretty civil and even-handed. I don't necessarily agree with the contention, but the idea of official forums and social media is you now have a direct connection to the developers. You are allowed to say that you feel Tracer's pose undermines the character in the same way I can write a lengthy article arguing that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman undermine Superman. You can step up and argue that Assassin's Creed should be based in hard stealth or The Witcher III should have combat like Dark Souls. That is your right. As long as you make an argument in a civil manner, no harm, no foul.

In this case, Blizzard decided that the feedback in question had merit. They looked at the post and decided, for whatever reason, that they agreed. Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan answered the post today.

"We'll replace the pose," said Kaplan. "We want everyone to feel strong and heroic in our community. The last thing we want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable, under-appreciated or misrepresented. Apologies and we'll continue to try to do better."

So that pose will be replaced with something else. Every character has an Over The Shoulder pose, so I assume it'll be replaced with something slightly different.

This brings us to the talk of outrage. "Outrage" has come to mean any feedback that we disagree with. That's not just in the gaming sphere, mind you, it's a pretty wide-ranging phenomenon. If we categorize everything we disagree with as outrage, it helps us not have to deal with the content of that disagreement. Because outrage is bad. It's irrational and angry. It is below us, the royal "us", who are cool, calm, and collected. We are rational beings and outrage is the refuge of the weak. (It's "righteous anger", when you're doing it right.)

But that original post wasn't outrage. It was barely angry. You can disagree with its argument, but call it what it is. It's feedback. We're allowed to give feedback. That is one of the wonderful things about free speech. You can say what you want within reason and your voice will potentially be heard. Sometimes, when your voice is heard, the creator or developer will decide, "You know what? You're right. Let's change it." They are also allowed to do that for various reasons, some ethical and some cynical.

Microsoft changed course on the Xbox One's DRM due to fan feedback. Square Enix is betting heavily on fan-based changes for Final Fantasy XV. Larian Studios' boss pointed to player suggestions as the driving force behind the success of Divinity: Original Sin. SimCity 2013 arguably failed because it didn't listen to its fans.

"Nowadays you can have a game developer talking to a customer while they're playing a game and fix an issue, or improve the experience, and do that in a matter of hours, if not minutes," said Valve president Gabe Newell in 2012. "Steven Spielberg [by comparison] is pretty much screwed. By the time he gets feedback on his movie, it's too late. He's done. Everything he could do to make customers happy, he's lost that opportunity by the time he can get reactions from his customers. The closer developers are to their customers, and the more the line blurs between both, that gives us a gigantic advantage over any other entertainment field."

Listening to fan feedback is something we all want, until it's something we dislike. Blizzard listened to that poster's argument and ultimately agreed. If fans disagree, and I can certainly see that disagreement already, then making a counter-argument to Blizzard Entertainment in a civil manner is the way to go. Rock out. Please make your voice heard and let Blizzard know that you preferred the pose in-game. Ask them to bring it back or provide an alternate way to access that content. I'm right there with you.

But this nonsense about "outrage"? There was none. This talk of "offended"? The poster wasn't, they just argued it did not make sense for the character. We can disagree and disagreement isn't always outrage or offense. It's not like there are two sides to discussions like this; it's a whole spectrum of opinions. (I've been in a thread with people who like Superman in Batman v Superman! People have their opinions!)

If you disagree, put up your best feedback and hope that Blizzard decides to change course. That's how you make change. Not by deciding that someone else hasn't passed your litmus test to leave feedback in the first place or by taking their rather calm argument as "outrage". Throw your (civil) words out there and see what happens.

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